School dropout rates in Latin America have a direct impact on the countries in the region. The Empty Classroom Project seeks to provide a way for new generations to see themselves through the seventh art
What is the connection between unemployment and terrorist attacks? This is a question Maria González, a Colombian who plays a teenager whose life changes dramatically when she is recruited by a guerrilla group, asks herself. The story of this fictional character – but based on real events – is one of the thousands that affect a large number of young people in Latin America. Many of them are unable to finish their secondary studies. Some because they live in rural areas, others as a result of a disability, the vast majority because they come from low-income families, and those that don’t, simply have no interest in education.
In Latin America, there are more than two and a half million displaced young people under the age of 18. Half of them do not attend secondary school. These are alarming figures, the social and economic consequences of which are having a severe impact in the countries of the region.
The Empty Classroom Project seeks to address this problem from the point of view of eleven directors who portray, in their short films, the impact of the school dropout phenomenon due to various reasons. The first two can already be viewed for free on Youtube.
One of them tells the story of Tomás and María, two young Colombians who saw their dreams dashed through armed violence in a very short time. Tomás recounts that, when his father became sick, he had to join a guerrilla group in order to cover the costs of his father’s treatment. Soon after going into hiding, “they brought me a ‘pelao’ and I had to shoot him in the head”, says the actor who enacts the real experiences of one of these youths.
María González’s story is similar. A student who ends up in the hands of a paramilitary group and whose options for making her way in life are limited by her social status. “What’s the point of studying, María? You can be sure that when people find out you’re from that neighbourhood, you’ll never get a job”.